Phillip Swing Thomas

Phillip Thomas passed away on December 16, 2021 after a lengthy illness. He was born on October 15, 1934 to Mary Margaret Swing and C. Reed Thomas. A fifth-generation resident of Loudoun County, Virginia he also boasted that he had roots in California. His maternal grandfather was the six term California Congressman Philip David Swing. Winfal Farm in Oakton,Virginia was home until the family relocated to their Ovoka Farm at Paris, Virginia in 1948. Life at Ovoka Farm is where Mr. Thomas nurtured a passion for hunt country of Northern Virginia. 

A recently unearthed birth certificate reveals that his mother chose the name Phil and not the name Phillip which he preferred.  Unlike his grandfather, he preferred the spelling with two L’s.  Probably did not matter to most because he was almost always addressed simply as, Mr. T.

His education at Augusta Military Academy prepared him well. Mr. T. often joked that Augusta Military Academy was chosen because it specialized in “backward and wayward boys”. His school records are evidence that Phillip was no great academic, but he was a refined marksman and excelled at Epee fencing. And he was adored by his instructors. Upon graduation he joined the Marines. He served at Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, and aboard numerous ships. He was immensely proud of his military record.  

His longevity in the area made him uniquely qualified as he began a career in country real estate.    With borrowed money and a shared desk, the basement of The Middleburg Bank building became his first office and he founded Thomas & Talbot Real Estate in 1967 in the building where it stands today. He quickly realized he possessed a skill for matching a person with a property to buy. Many sales were accomplished after only a single showing, so keen was his intuition. As the years passed, he became well invested in Middleburg and he enthusiastically shared with others all he knew that was good and special about these environs.  Mr. T. believed that to know a place is to be the one who enters through its kitchen door. This enthusiasm drew clients who were professional and amateur equestrians, celebrities as well as the common man. All were treated with like and diligent attention. 

Mr. T spent his entire life in step with Middleburg, a person synonymous with the place itself. Although Middleburg is renowned for its equestrian sports, he was not an avid rider, and he often joked, “If they told me to get outta town before sundown (by horse) I could do it!”

He respected both the client and the land.  Many will remember him as a respected business owner, one-man welcoming committee, and goodwill ambassador for the Town of Middleburg.  But he was also presented the 2001 Piedmont Environmental Council’s Land Conservation Award for the preservation of nearly two thousand acres in the Paris valley. One of Phil’s original sales agents said “It was good to learn from the best. You knew he was right.” A poster hangs in the offices of Thomas & Talbot that reads, “Earth, this is God! I want all you people to clear out before the end of the month. I have a client who’s interested in the property.”

Mr. T had both taste and style. Rarely was he seen out of his daily uniform. An average day consisted of knife-creased khakis, a blue blazer with custom buttons and a tie. A tie was de rigueur. His tweed jacket with suede elbow patches and wide wale corduroys signaled the start of foxhunting season. For Mr. T, foxhunting meant the preservation of Middleburg’s open space; he also demonstrated that the hunt breakfast was an important aspect of the sport!

He was frequently seen exiting through the Chinese red door of the stylish offices of Thomas & Talbot as he prepared to stroll about town engaging locals in conversation. Prior to its closure, The Coach Stop was a frequent destination for lunch.   He would hold court in the front booth.

One friend stated, “When I first met Phil he scared the hell out of me, but I learned that underneath that gruff exterior was a real softie who was kind, wanted to help where appropriate, and I loved the twinkle in his eye when he smiled or laughed”.  Mr. T was a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, and admitted on many occasions to being a bit grouchy. Regardless, many have said, “Phil was really good to me”. He was quietly generous and a mentor to many. Discovered among his personal belongings were a treasure trove of greeting cards and meaningful personal letters he received over the decades. Obviously, sentimental too.

 Mr. Thomas was immensely attached to his in-town home, identified by many people as ‘the house behind the wall’, which he named Ceilidh.  Ceilidh is Gaelic for ‘welcome’ or ‘party’, although Mr. Thomas was known to use the anachronous word, ‘hoedown’.   Ceilidh was a house he curated and loved for half a century. Many are aware of his love affair with his house, a place he decorated and tended with utter joy often outshining the hired design professionals. The doors were frequently opened for holiday parties and hoedowns.   He married his wife Patti 32 years ago in the boxwood garden of the residence.  It was also in his beloved home that he departed this existence on December 16, 2021.

Despite his illness that took from him so much, he never lost his wit. He had absolute recall of his military serial number, his childhood dog, and fondly remembered his lifelong friends and cohorts. He was grateful for what he described as “a short life”. Per his wishes, his treasured garden at Ceilidh will host a reception in the Spring. In addition to his wife Patti, Mr. Thomas is survived by his sons, Richard and Phillip Jr..

Previous articleSingle-use plastic Bag regulation comes to Loudoun County- Middleburg Sustainability Committee
Next articleWilliam Standley Stokes, IV